Locals React To Health Care Bill's Passage
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Whip James E. Clyborn celebrate after the
House passed health care reform Sunday night.
Three years ago, Eagle Rock resident George McElroy found himself doubled over in pain, suffering from diarrhea and a host of other gastrointestinal complaints.
"My stomach completely shut down," McElroy said, as he sat relaxing at an outdoor table at Swork Coffee in Eagle Rock, a thick copy of "Great People of the Bible and How They Lived" in-hand.
At the time, McElroy had basic insurance through his employer, but the limited selection of doctors who accepted the plan meant a long wait for the 28-year-old hipster to get an appointment. Ten days later, McElroy finally saw a gastroenterologist, who, ironically, demanded to know why he hadn't gotten medical help sooner.
"That was really the nail on the coffin for me," McElroy said, of his mounting frustration with the U.S. health care system, adding that he would have had better luck simply going to the local emergency room.
Things are even tighter now for the self-employed McElroy, who decided to ditch his job in favor of freelance writing.
McElroy can only afford catastrophic insurance, which he pays $110 per month for. The plan -- underwritten by Blue Cross -- only covers major accidents and illnesses, and does not provide coverage for preventive care or routine services such as doctor visits to treat a cold or flu.
But relief may come for McElroy in the form of a new health care bill passed by Congress over the weekend and signed into law by President Barack Obama on Tuesday morning.
The law mandates all Americans have health insurance, places stricter regulations on insurance companies, creates state exchanges for people who buy insurance on their own, and allows more people into Medicaid, the state administered insurance program for the poor.
While McElroy says he has high hopes that the bill will expand access to healthcare for him and others in similar situations, his optimism is tinged with a hint of skepticism, and says he wants to wait until the bill goes into full effect in 2014 to pass judgment.
"Overall, I think it's promising, but that's all I can say," he said. "I don't think anyone really understands what this means for the United States."
Another Swork customer, Loren Griffing, took a moment away from his laptop to weigh in on the great health care debate.
The self-employed Griffing, who sells bicycle products online, hasn't had health insurance for 16 years. He can't find a company willing to sell him a policy at a reasonable rate because of a heart defect, and has to shell out $700 for his yearly visit to the cardiologist.
Though Griffing says he welcomes the new law, he doesn't believe the country has the funds to sustain it.
"I don't know how [the plan] is going to work," he said. "I have no confidence in the administration's ability to get anything done."
The complicated provisions in the law may prevent it from being truly effective, Griffing added.
"[Health care reform] has got to be simple and it's got to be affordable," he said.
Roy Parikh, a security guard at a Smart & Final store near USC, doesn't have health insurance because his plan became too expensive. He said he has gone without insurance for about 7 years, but buys plans for his two children, including his 22-year-old son, who was born severely handicapped.
"I keep up his insurance all the time," he said. "If I have to pay for it, I'm going to pay for it. What can I do? I have no choice. I have to cut corners here and there to make sure he gets what he needs."
Parikh said that the hospital bills for his son, Sahil's birth and subsequent care has surpassed the $100,000 mark. Had he not had health insurance at the time, Parikh said, he would have had to declare bankruptcy.
Today, it's touch-and-go for Parikh and his wife.
"Thank God I haven't fallen sick," he said. "I just pay cash...if I need a doctor for myself or my wife. I can go into an emergency room. The only thing is that they will bill me for it...and I will have to make arrangements so that I can pay it over a period of time."
Parikh said he thinks many people, especially those without insurance, hope the law brings about real reform.
"Everybody will be looking forward to it," he said.